Caution, student experience may vary: Social identities impact a student’s experience in peer discussions

Sarah L. Eddy, Sara Brownell, Phonraphee Thummaphan, Ming Chih Lan, Mary Pat Wenderoth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


In response to calls for implementing active learning in college-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, classrooms across the country are being transformed from instructor centered to student centered. In these active-learning classrooms, the dynamics among students becomes increasingly important for understanding student experiences. In this study, we focus on the role a student prefers to assume during peer discussions, and how this preferred role may vary given a student’s social identities. In addition we explore whether three hypothesized barriers to participation may help explain participation difference in the classroom. These barriers are 1) students are excluded from the discussion by actions of their groupmates; 2) students are anxious about participating in peer discussion; and 3) students do not see value in peer discussions. Our results indicate that self-reported preferred roles in peer discussions can be predicted by student gender, race/ethnicity, and nationality. In addition, we found evidence for all three barriers, although some barriers were more salient for certain students than others. We encourage instructors to consider structuring their in-class activities in ways that promote equity, which may require more purposeful attention to alleviating the current differential student experiences with peer discussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberar45
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Caution, student experience may vary: Social identities impact a student’s experience in peer discussions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this